Transitioning Kittens to Solid Food

Posted by Dr. Roth on

Kittens eating from a bowl, transitioning kittens to solid food
 Transitioning kittens to solid food can be a messy and complicated process for pet parents. Knowing when to start weaning, what cat food to buy, and understanding kitten nutrition requirements can be overwhelming. But the process doesn’t have to be complicated, and being prepared will help make the transition easier for the kitten and the pet parent. 

Transitioning Kittens To Solid Food

The weaning process for kittens raised by their mother is a little different than weaning orphaned, bottle-raised kittens. Raising a kitten with a mother cat is easier because the mother cat will help with the weaning and cleaning. When the kitten is around four weeks of age, the mother cat will nurse the kitten less often and the kitten will naturally begin showing interest in solid foods.

Orphaned or bottle-raised kittens can be a little more complicated to wean. Cats learn from copying or mimicking their mother. Without the mom there to help, feeding time can get very messy for the pet parent. Weaning should begin around three weeks with bottle-raised kittens because milk replacers are not as nutritionally complete as mother’s milk and can cause digestion problems.

Weaning a Kitten 101

No two kittens are the same and some can be more difficult to wean than others. Transitioning kittens to solid food will require some supplies and planning. To make the transition easier, here are some tips and supplies that will help prepare the pet parent.

  • Designate a space to feed the kittens: The weaning process will be messy. The bathtub, shower, or kiddie pool are great places to feed kittens and offer easy clean-up.
  • Tarps or sheets: Feeding on tarps or sheets can also provide easier clean-up. 
  • Soft washcloths: Have these nearby to clean up the kittens.
  • Syringe: Using a syringe to get a small taste in the kitten’s mouth will help get things started.
  • Avoid deep dishes: Deeper dishes are easily tipped over and make it more difficult for the kitten to get to the food. 
  • Variety of high-quality wet food: It may take a few tries to find a food the kittens like. Having a variety on hand will prevent multiple trips to the store. 

A basic weaning schedule is as follows:
  • 3-5 weeks: Make a gruel with wet food and formula.
  • 5-6 weeks: Introduce dry kibble but make sure to add a little water to soften it.
  • 6-8 weeks: Weaning process is complete. 

What Do Cats Eat?

Cats eat cat food and kittens eat kitten food. However, not all cat and kitten foods offer the essential nutrients required for healthy growth. When shopping for kitten food, choosing high-quality food is very important. Kittens are growing and need food that’s high in protein and other essential nutrients. Trying to figure out which brand to buy can also be overwhelming because of how many options are out there. 

The first thing to look for is a statement on the packaging from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).  This organization sets the minimum standards for nutritional content in animal food. Look for something on the labeling that states “balanced and complete” or “meets nutritional levels established by the AAFCO.”

Weaning begins by mixing milk replacer, or water, with soft food to make a gruel. Soft food should be a type that doesn’t contain chunks because chunky food makes it more difficult to mix with formula. 

Kitten Nutrition

The best nutrition for a very young kitten is their mother’s milk. However, orphaned kittens often end up on a kitten milk replacer. Even the best milk replacer is unable to meet all of a kitten’s nutritional needs. Therefore, formula-raised kittens are usually smaller and don’t grow as quickly as their mother-fed counterparts; they must start weaning earlier to get more adequate nutrition. 

High-quality wet food with a lot of protein is needed to promote growth and adequate hydration. Dry foods should be avoided because they don’t offer the kitten any hydration and kittens can easily become dehydrated. 

Kittens should be fed four times a day and the food left down for about 30 minutes. Make sure to discard any remaining food and thoroughly clean the bowls. Moist food and formula go rancid quickly when left out and will make the kittens sick. 

Once a kitten becomes more dependent on wet food and less formula is mixed in, cat vitamins and/or probiotics for cats can be added to the food to offer more nutritional support. 

Online Vet Help‌

Want to learn more about raising kittens? Emergency questions often happen when your regular vet’s office is closed. Don’t worry, Fuzzy is here to offer online vet help! Fuzzy vets are highly qualified professionals and can answer your kitten questions day or night. Fuzzy members can always contact a Fuzzy vet via the 24/7 Live Vet Chat

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